So yes, as it turns out, we were going to make our decision about buying a house based on 10 minutes talking to a stranger. Considering how much we loved House 1, we just couldn’t wrap our heads around making an offer on House 2, which we also liked but had a potential downside we weren’t sure we’d ever escape.
We decided on House 1 and simultaneously vowed not to look back. We were choosing our choice! It was hard to tell what excited me more: imagining my sudden culinary genius in a dreamboat kitchen or simply not having to look at any more houses. The truth was, it didn’t matter. We traded ambiguity for calm certitude and I slept through the night for the first time in almost a week.
Making the offer and negotiating was another matter. Read more »
A screen shot of a RealtyTrac report with some new information.
The real estate and housing data source RealtyTrac has always been pretty thorough when it comes to information for the properties listed on its website. You’d see schools, area crime, property history — plenty of fun facts to sort through. But now the company is taking it several steps further with its newest data dump: Each property will also have information about local environmental hazards, sex offenders, meth labs, and surrounding construction — all in one place! No more will you have to go to one site to check on a neighborhood’s sex offenders and another site to look for building permits. RealtyTrac has it all.
RealtyTrac now has 34 data points for each listing, including the de rigeur and the unusual or hard-to-find: foreclosure status, outstanding loans and position, current owner’s name and mailing address, local schools, crime rates, comparable sales and price trends, and very broad information about area unemployment rates and even risk of tornado, earthquake and radon exposure.
Let’s give it a try. I’ll use my own neighborhood, Cedar Park in West Philadelphia, as a case study.
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The prospects for new multifamily construction in Philly look good in the long run, a panel of insiders say – but there are some matters that need to be addressed for the market to truly blossom. The millennial generation (pictured at left) is getting tired of living with its parents and is ready to strike out on its own. Developers and investors are now giving them the apartments to rent here, and are ready to supply even more if the jobs they need materialize.
That was the rough consensus of the panelists who spoke on the state of the Philadelphia rental property market at the RealShare Philadelphia conference at the Union League Feb. 27.
Things are picking up on the multifamily front, said panel moderator Jerald M. Goodman, partner at Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP. In fact, he said, “Multifamily is hot.”
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To buy or to rent? Chances are the latter seems like the safer option. Yet, according to a recent analysis by Trulia, homebuyers may be making the more economic choice — at least in Philadelphia, where the housing market has steadied in recent years.
When comparing the city’s median home and rent prices, the real estate website discovered Philly homeowners would be paying 48% less than if they were leasing for seven years. That’s under the national average where homeowners save close to 38%.
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The very night I stood on the regional rail platform at Temple and found out we’d lost the house on which we intended to make an offer, we were actually scheduled to see another one directly across the street. In fact, we’d scheduled the showing just to be sure we weren’t missing anything else in the neighborhood before buying.
That night we tore through the house in a semi-blur. The bamboo floors seemed nice. The exposed brick was fine. In the 7 p.m. darkness, the backyard seemed good enough. We were morose. We were running late after ogling another house around the corner and could see the owners outside waiting in their car. We mostly wanted to go home and sulk. And eat dinner.
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We had seen three houses that left us cold on a marathon Sunday in January. We had also seen one that we loved and another that piqued our interest but was at the high end of our budget.
Much in the same way that the people we fall in love with rarely meet all of our initial “requirements” (says the lady who married a Red Sox fan), the home my husband and I fell in love with lacked a few of the details we originally thought were non-negotiable. The front door was practically on the street, which meant our dreamed-of front porch was out of the question. The upstairs was carpeted and instead of brick or stone, the home was finished in stucco. But we loved it because in toto, it made us happy and we felt at home. There were French doors leading to a lovely dining room and the kitchen was a wide, modern oasis compared with the tiny galley we have now. Plus, the listing price was a steal.
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Letting go was never a skill I acquired. I tend to imagine projects from planning stages through completion and if the results don’t align perfectly, I’ve been known to stew. When social plans give way to alternatives I can’t help but look back on our original itinerary with regret. I keep a mental list of mortal enemies that dates back to the fourth grade. If we’re being honest, I keep a mental list of my friends’ enemies going back nearly as far. There is no letting go lightly for me.
So comparing expectations with reality during the house-hunting process has been something of a vexation. I pore over listing photos online, examining quarter round and looking for traces of popcorn ceilings. By the time we decide it’s time to see a property in person, we have a modest expectation that we will not come upon, say, second-story flooring that appears to be made entirely of plywood. But listings and their photos can be deceiving. We’ve learned the hard way that a “finished basement” may not necessarily include ceilings and that sometimes you have to get really, really close to a wall to notice that what looks like painted drywall is actually painted-over wallpaper. Read more »
This is what it will be like when Shannon finds the right house.
Right now the sea of not-quite-rights and smidge-too-expensives is wide and deep for us in East Falls. I keep waiting for a rush of certainty but the properties we’ve been touring all seem to have some Goldilocks-style defect. One has a living room that is too small for our couch. Another is lovely and huge but the flooring throughout will need to be completely redone and the window frames outside are missing. One we thought was just right but it’s under agreement.
And so we’ve started discussing some of the other houses we’ve visited and liked – but not loved. Or not loved for the list price. It makes for good dinner fodder but not great decision-making. Last night we found the eureka moment we’re after … in a commercial mid-Olympic slopestyle competition. Now at least I have a goal. This is how I’d like to feel when we walk into our next home tour:
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We’ve modified RealtyTrac’s infographic. Full graphic below.
RealtyTrac has released a “flipster” report: data, graphics and an infographic all meant to explain where the “hipster” demographic is buying and renting right now. The infographic we show below outlines what an investor can do to flip a home specifically for the hipster market — hence, flipster.
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It took us a few weeks to get over losing the storybook-like house on West Penn Street. Once we did, we behaved like anyone on the rebound: we scheduled five home tours one afternoon at other properties in East Falls in the hopes that sheer quantity would erase our memory.
It cannot be overstated how much we learned between our first open house and our most recent private tour. Open houses used to take us about 30 minutes. We would open cabinets and run the water and spend lots of time talking about flooring and layout. Touring with our realtor Jack felt like research. We spent a half hour in the basement alone, meticulously inspecting pipes and joists. Had the original cast iron been replaced by PVC? Was there evidence of leakage? We stood out front in the polar vortex for another 20 minutes discussing window framing and the pros and cons of stucco. We felt like experts even while we admitted that an eventual professional inspection would probably leave us feeling bewildered.
We had been amassing a list of properties we were interested in touring, a few of which we had seen casually at open houses. One of the first properties we toured that Sunday was a home that held a lot of appeal on our first visit. By the time we left, I was glumly agreeing that it was probably not right for us.